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SFU Beedie partners with Vancouver Economic Commission to produce affordability guide

December 17, 2020
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By Will Henderson

SFU’s Beedie School of Business has collaborated with the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) to produce an affordability guide for businesses and professionals seeking information about relocating to the Vancouver area.

While affordability and cost of living in Vancouver is a much-discussed topic, finding reliable and comprehensive data has historically been a challenge. SFU Beedie professor Andrey Pavlov has worked with VEC’s team to collate a large amount of data from a variety of sources, presenting it in an easily navigable format on their website.

VEC is the economic development agency for the City of Vancouver, working to build a prosperous, inclusive and resilient economy for Vancouver, its businesses and its citizens. The affordability guide project’s core objective is to help anyone who plans to move to Vancouver, whether a company or individual, to determine what their costs will be.

“The objective of the affordability guide is to paint a more detailed picture of the cost of living and working here. Housing is a huge focus, but there are other considerations for people or companies thinking about making a move in the Vancouver region, such as the cost of childcare, healthcare, and transportation,” says Eleena Marley, acting CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission. “These factors are necessary to access opportunities in any economy."

Until now, prospective employees would have been able to find out what they can earn in Vancouver, but there was very little information about what it would cost to live in different areas of the city—and a lot of potentially alarming media coverage of the affordability crisis.

“That’s important for any city, but it's particularly important for Vancouver because you if you try to research the costs you will see these scary articles out there and you’re going to think you will need twice the money to make it,” says Pavlov. “While it’s true that you're going to need to earn more than in many other cities, it’s not as bad as those articles suggest.”

Pavlov and his team of researchers worked with the VEC to develop an innovative approach to assessing realistic costs for various goods and services. They determined that in real estate, for example, using median or average values did not give a meaningful sense of the type of home and amenities people actually need. The researchers looked at listing and sales data to determine the pricing level that offered a reasonable, but not luxurious property, settling on the 25th percentile.

“It's a good property, but not the penthouse, not with a view—so not luxury, but basic, clean and safe,” says Pavlov. “In a city where a lot of properties are bought for redevelopment or investment, the median price can be very high, but that doesn’t really matter for our purposes. You don’t need the median home, you need a home you can be happy with.”

The researchers applied this approach across a broad range of services to create the guide, which they believe provides a practical and representative picture of expenses in the city. VEC then created a user-friendly and intuitive dashboard to present this information in an accessible format.

“It's not just pulling data from various sources,” says Pavlov. “It's actually putting some thought into how these data should be analysed.”